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PHOTO BY DEVIN MONK  Lake Travis Zipline Adventures owner John Shipley, far left, points out the lines across the Sandy Creek arm of Lake Travis to Leadership Lake Travis class members March 7 during their Tourism Day.

Lake Travis Zipline Adventures owner John Shipley, far left, points out the lines across the Sandy Creek arm of Lake Travis to Leadership Lake Travis class members March 7 during their Tourism Day.

As a steering committee member of Leadership Lake Travis Class 004, I’ve been able to help the 35-member crew navigate the waters of learning and connecting with their community in the Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce program.

In the last class, I documented my experiences through words and images in columns such as this one. For this go around, I must thank Cindy Taylor and Ken Farr for continuing the effort and for sharing their perspective through their columns and photographs, respectively.

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Cindy was unable to attend the class’ most recent excursion March 7 at Tourism Day, so I am picking up the pen, so to speak.

Led by Kim Kellner, “tour guides” Lauren Conrad, Mallory Voorheis, James Dinwoodie and Greg White took our group of “tourists” on an eight-hour tour of a local industry that contributes much more to the economy than the average traveler and most residents would suspect.

Our guides told us to relax and enjoy the day as they slipped lais over our heads in the morning at Fore restaurant. Easy instructions to follow given what lie in store for the day’s itinerary.

Familiar friends of Leadership, Laura and Will Mitchell opened with presentations on Lakeway’s new Hotel Occupancy Tax and the annual SpringFest, a chamber-sponsored festival set for April 27 at The Backyard at Bee Cave.

Laura Mitchell, Lake Travis Chamber of Commerce president, worked with city and business leaders to bring the tax to the city.

Commonly known as HOT, the tax is included in room bills and is solely devoted to the promotion of tourism and hotel-convention center industry in the city in which it is assessed.

Lakeway City Council approved the tax in April 2012, and it went into effect in July at a 3 percent rate, which will rise to 5 percent the second year of the tax and 7 percent in the third year. More on the tax later.

Playing the part of tourists, we then loaded onto the bus and zipped over to Lake Travis Zipline Adventures in Volente.

Unfortunately, because of logistical complications involving different sides of Lake Travis and expeditiously getting 35 people back on the same bus, we were unable to partake in launching ourselves at speeds of up to 45-60 mph on 1/2-inch thick cables.

Some of us breathed sighs of relief to hear the news; others vowed to return another day to fly along the ninth-longest zipline in the world of 2,800 feet, according to owner John Shipley.

Next, we headed to Vintage Villas Hotel and Events in Hudson Bend, where Voorheis, its corporate sales manager, educated us on the venue’s history, amenities and events.

Over lunch there, Lakeway Visitors Commission chairwoman Sandy Cox detailed the Hotel Occupancy Tax and how its funds are distributed.

Specifically, it is directed to:

  • Funding the establishment, improvement, or maintenance of a convention center or visitor information center;
  • Paying the administrative costs for facilitating convention registration;
  • Paying for advertising, solicitations, and promotions that attract tourists and convention delegates to the city or its vicinity;
  • Expenditures that promote the arts;
  • Funding historical restoration or preservation programs;
  • Funding certain expenses, including promotional expenses, directly related to a sporting event within counties with a population of under 1 million;
  • Funding the enhancement or upgrading of existing sports facilities or sports fields for certain municipalities;
  • Funding transportation systems for tourists; and,
  • Signage directing tourists to sights and attractions that are visited frequently by hotel guests in the municipality.

“Really, the emphasis is heads in beds,” Cox said of increased occupancy rates.

To wrap up an educational, yet serene, day of learning, the class boated on Lake Travis and drank in the presentation by Kelly King, marketing director at Fall Creek Vineyards.

Ed and Susan Auler established the vineyards in 1975 off Lake Buchanan where the soil, temperatures and climate convince the grapes that they are in Spain instead of the Hill Country of Texas.

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